20 Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable in 2020
What is the New Year but a never-ending drive to hold yourself accountable? Yes, at the end of each 365-day run, most of us will look at our lives, examine the gaps in where we want to be, and hatch plans we never stick to all in the hope of “perfecting” things by next Christmas.
Well, it’s time for the pipe dreams to become realities. The New Year does not have to be a well-meaning but ill-fated time to fix the “wrongs” of your life. It actually can be the moment you turn it all around for good. But no matter what the Resolution is, the foundational principle to making it work to your advantage is to hold yourself accountable.
In the following article, we’re going to show you how to do just that. Once you master the art of accountability, no obstacle will be too “out there” to accomplish. But before we get to the 20 tips, let’s look at some of the behaviors likely to knock you off track.
What Gets in the Way of Holding Yourself Accountable?
If there was just one behavior keeping you from being accountable to yourself, it would be easier to overcome and master. Unfortunately, there are several. And before giving you the tips to get you there, it’s important we confront the underlying behaviors, starting with:
Not Really Wanting It
Goals can seem nice or reasonable or even preferable. But there is a difference between wishing and wanting. When you wish you were thinner or smarter in a specific subject area or stronger mentally, you aren’t really working at it.
Think of what a wish is, after all. It’s a blanket statement that requires no effort on your part. Something you say to a mythical genie for him to do all the work!
Wanting something is realizing there are no genies to help you get there. It means seeing a goal in front of you that’s desirable enough to influence future behaviors. And then you use those behaviors to work towards it. Becoming more accountable to yourself will help you do the work necessary for accomplishing those “far-out” goals.
Lack of Coping Mechanism
The journey to accountability is seldom made without some trips and stumbles along the way. When that happens, it can be very easy to give up and revert back to past behaviors. The way to avoid this is to have a method of coping with your failures as you run into them.
In the tips we’re about to share, we’ll be discussing the ways to cope with failure. This is essential if you want to reach the long-term goal, whatever that goal may be.
Going It Alone
Anyone seen a Star Wars movie? If you haven’t, then consider this a spoiler alert. But most of the time, the big bad guy is way too strong for the hero to take out on his or her own. In the latest Star Wars movie, you see this with Rey and Palpatine. This mimics the battle between Luke and Palpatine in the first trilogy (that is, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi).
The bad guy eventually gets his but not before all hope is seemingly lost and the good guy gets a little help from a (relatively) unexpected source. Some goals are like that. They’re way too big for you to tackle without an accountability partner, or a team of partners for that matter. These are the people that will help you not lose focus through the victories and defeats that you encounter along the way.
Avoiding Clarity in What You Want
Sometimes you fail because you’re not really clear on what you want. For example, you may set “losing weight” as your goal for 2020. But that’s not really the problem bothering you the most. What’s really bothering you is your inability to have control over your will power.
When you start to examine the problem in a little more depth, you realize other people or situations always influence the decisions you make rather than the other way around. In this self-examination, you realize that weight is not your problem at all. Self-control, on the other hand, is.
In this scenario, your goal for 2020 should instead be to focus on the behaviors that cause you to fail. Take care of that, and the rest of the little blemishes will clear up on their own.
Trying to Do Too Much, Too Soon
Ever sit down with pen-and-paper and make 10 goals for the New Year? What a recipe for failure! You’ve just transcribed 10 things in your life that are not as they should be. You haven’t been able to change one of them for the better. And now, all because you’re trying to set your NYRs, you think you’re going to actually have hope of reaching any of these goals?
That’s not how self-improvement works. Before you can accomplish all these goals, you have to accomplish one of them. Accomplish one and move onto another. Stop bombarding yourself with impossible goals, or you could get caught up in a failure loop and add a few more bad behaviors to boot!
Failing Your Spiritual Needs
Obviously we’re not talking about going to church every week. If that helps you, great. But don’t be so near-sighted as to think spirituality takes a single form. We’re all spiritual, even people who believe the earth was created by a Big Bang and there is no God.
Our spirituality is what makes us get up in the morning and see the value in going through with this thing called life for another 24 hours. It’s what helps us find joy in the intangibles. It’s what makes us content in the moment or the overall direction of our lives. Neglecting your spiritual side is a surefire misstep. So tap into whatever your spirituality is and nurture it!
Forgetting to Check In
Progress should be measured as you’re moving along. How else will you be able to catalog your successes, notice your shortcomings, and readjust plans that aren’t working? Make assessment a central part of your accountability strategy, and you’ll be much more likely to knock off some of those 2020 Resolutions.
Poor Use of Your Time
Something else you may want to address before setting off on your 2020 Resolutions Journey? How you’re spending your time, especially online. More people are wasting their time with shallow work and pointless scrolling. And with 2020 being an election year, you can bank on it there will be people out in force bloviating their political views from the digital rafters as if their Facebook or Twitter post will change anyone’s mind.
Cut it out. You’re not changing any minds. In fact, if anything, you’re causing people to dig in and you’re wasting valuable time making your world a better place. So, in 2020, reexamine how you’re spending your time and make sure you enhance your circle of influence instead of uselessly blasting out opinions or taking part in other online activities that have no bearing on self-improvement and accountability.
No Regroup Strategy
Look, you’re going to fail. We all do when setting out to hold ourselves accountable. Those of us who know this going in and plan for it, however, have a better chance of getting back on track.
Don’t accept failure. The way to do that: have a strategy for getting back on track should it occur. In the rest of the article, we’ll be talking about how you can do that. But before getting there, one last obstacle to discuss:
Getting Burned Out
Getting burned out with your goals is a sign that you may have aimed too high or put too much on your plate at once. That’s why it is more important to master the basics of accountability before moving onto individual goals. Again, the rest of the article will be spent discussing how you can do this.
Now that we’ve covered the obstacles to accountability, it’s time for the Main Event. These are the 20 ways that you can hold yourself accountable in the year ahead. Let’s continue!
1. Commit Plans to Paper
There is real value to writing down your goals on physical paper. It resonates in a way that digital apps do not. And that’s true even if you end up tossing the paper in a trash can later on. That’s because you’ve made the tangible effort to get your plans down in physical form. They no longer live in your head or the cloud. They’re in the real world with the real memory of you committing them to paper.
So if you really want to hold yourself accountable in 2020, start adopting the write-things-down mindset. Doing so regularly will help you sharpen your focus as well, even if it means your goals end up getting tweaked and changed a bit along the way.
2. Center on One Goal at a Time
It is okay to make more than one New Year’s Resolution. It is not okay to set the same priority on each of them. Scrutinize each and everything you commit to doing, and create a hierarchy of what should come first, second, third, etc.
You cannot provide the same amount of focus and determination on each individual goal at the same time for the same reason we as human beings are lousy multi-taskers. We fail to focus adequately on either task and end up giving neither the best of ourselves.
3. Meet Accomplishments with Rewards
It would be nice if we lived in a world where we could just do the right thing because it was the right thing to do, accountability practices included. Unfortunately, that’s not the way human nature works.
We get antsy. We get frustrated. We become tempted to fall back into old practices. Unless…
One of the most effective ways of overcoming the backslide is to reward yourself along the way for reaching certain milestones. This could be something as simple as going to the movies or buying a new video game. It could mean treating yourself to a run or a workout or some meditation time.
You decide the reward. And you decide it based on what’s important to you relative to the goal you’re trying to accomplish. In other words, you wouldn’t want to reward yourself with a bottle of wine for six months of sobriety. That would pose too big of a threat of backsliding. Instead, choose another more appropriate reward.
4. Break Down Larger Goals
A larger goal can feel insurmountable until you start to realize the things that have to be accomplished on the way to getting there. It can be worth your time to sit down with a goal like “weight loss,” for example, and map it out. Ask clarification questions to help you in the journey.
- How much weight do you need to lose to get to your goal weight?
- When do you want to lose it by?
- To get there, what will you have to weigh by the end of the quarter, month, or week?
- How many calories per day will you have to cut from your basal metabolic rate to succeed?
Clarifying the journey sets you up with a whole host of smaller goals that you can accomplish and reward yourself for along the way. That makes it much easier to hit the target by the date. You can and should do this for all your goals.
5. Assess Your Progress
Progress is important. But even more important is tracking that progress so you’ll know where you are and where you need to be at certain points along your path. We’ve already done a pretty good job of discussing this in the example above. But we did it from a forward-thinking perspective.
It’s important to stop along the way and look back at where you were. This gives you a better picture of where you are and where you’re going and whether you can realistically reach the goal you’ve set by the time you’ve committed to.
6. Build a Feedback Tribe
Feedback is important to holding yourself accountable because it gets you out of your own head. It’s way too easy to shut down your goals when you’re the only person aware of them. When you hold yourself up to the potential for shame, ridicule, and failure, it becomes a different story altogether.
Now, it can be tempting to load up your feedback tribe with friends or family members. But only do this if the people from these camps are unafraid of being honest with you. The worst thing for your progress is to hear back from a bunch of yes-men and -women who treat you with kid gloves.
The risk here is that you become far too comfortable not hitting your goals because the feedback tribe is in the business of cushioning your landing instead of seeing to it that you succeed in holding yourself accountable. That’s not the kind of help anyone needs.
7. Make Lists
Frequently making lists is a helpful practice for establishing what you have accomplished and what you still have left to go. The great thing about list-making is that it forces you to cut through the BS and line things out in as succinct of a manner as possible.
You don’t think about things like excuses or patting yourself on the back. That’s because you’re focused simply on the tasks at hand. There’s also something quite satisfying about building a list of 5 or 10 and seeing how many of them you can cross through by the end of the day. Each one gets you closer to where you want to be.
8. Punish Yourself
Admittedly this isn’t for everyone. But it can be very effective when correcting negative behaviors that continually hold you up on your way to the destination.
Of course, you don’t want to be too hard on yourself. That can lead to a trail of burnout that makes you give up everything. But a behavior like, for example, cutting out sweets for a week after going over in calories on a single day, can right the ship and get you back to your weight loss journey.
Self-punishment also is an effective way of reminding yourself that the goals you’re setting out to accomplish are hard enough to be worth the effort. Make everything too easy, and you’ll run the risk of devaluing the importance of the goal.
9. Play to Your Strengths
Approaching any issue or obstacle from the angle that allows you to exercise your strengths will be a sure way of getting you closer to where you need to be. That said, it’s not foolproof. If you lack certain skill-sets, you will need to work on them. That’s especially true when what you’re lacking is integral to the whole. And that brings us to:
10. Working on Weaknesses
How do you do that? You do it by connecting with people who can teach you better ways of approaching a problem. Perhaps you can even barter your strengths for theirs to where both of you help each other overcome a problem you’re having. In the process of doing this, you’ll even find yourself a new accountability buddy!
11. Treat Your Time with Respect
Seriously, what is up with logging onto Facebook just because it’s there or scrolling endlessly to fill the void? Learn to treat your time with more respect in 2020. Do this by disconnecting as much as possible and finding ways to connect with the world around you.
Maybe that means going for a jog or working a crossword puzzle. Perhaps you could take a cooking or art class or start brewing your own beer. Anything is better than mindlessly consuming media, social or otherwise. Make 2020 be about the year of analog. Use technology as a tool, not a time-waster.
And no, we’re not saying you can’t watch The Witcher or the next season of The Mandalorian. Those are good uses of technology because they have the purpose of entertaining you. Eliminate technology without a purpose, and learn to recognize when it’s taking over.
12. Psych Yourself Up
One of the more effective ways of holding yourself accountable is to tell yourself you have to hold yourself accountable. That means giving yourself a pep talk before you start a goal-specific task. That pep talk doesn’t have to be out loud, but it can be. (And it probably wouldn’t hurt if it was.)
13. Get Access to the Right Tools
Some goals are more easily accomplished with the right tools and resources. For example, a food-tracking app and a pedometer are extremely helpful to your weight loss journey. At least, they are compared to guessing at it.
By the same token, a word processor with a Word Count feature on it can greatly aid your journey to write a book. Find the appropriate tools for the goal, and make sure they’re actually helpful rather than distracting.
14. Use Technology to Your Advantage
This is a bit of a continuation. But our lives are so integrated with technology that it bears repeating. Tech is good and should be put to good use during your journey. But make sure it serves you, not the other way around!
15. Become a Downtime Planner
One way that technology can come in handy is with using downtime effectively. How many times have you done a long, boring wait in the doctor’s office with the aid of your favorite game?
While that can be fun, what if you turned the tables on technology and opened your Notes app instead to do some journaling about what you’ve accomplished and strategizing a plan of attack for the days ahead? Start harnessing the power of your downtime to focus on planning and strategy execution, whenever possible.
16. Treat Working Out Like an Essential
Not everyone’s goal is weight loss. But everyone should make working out and eating right a part of their daily routine, especially when trying to build accountability. That’s because it is, in itself, a physical expression of the battles you have to fight and win each day to be accountable with whichever task you’re attempting.
Workouts and eating right also make you more mentally and physically effective in your work. And that pays major dividends the more complex your tasks become.
Journaling is just another form of list-making or planning. It helps you get your thoughts out on paper (or word processor) in another way that leads to long-term, sustained accountability practices. It also can help you process the emotional part of your physical and mental journeys.
18. Form Contingencies
There are some people who give up all hope the minute they taste the first bitterness of defeat. These people will backslide into bad habits even worse than the ones they had before, making it even harder to pull themselves out of the gutter. They act as if they’re the only people who ever failed at all!
The reality: we all fail, and we usually do it more than once. The difference between winners and losers is that winners know how to re-calibrate and get back after the goal. That might include tweaking their goals or coming back to something later that they’re not quite ready for. But they don’t stop acting in a forward-thinking manner.
19. Make It Fun
Make a game out of your accountability journey. This also is referred to as “gamification.” Doing so will help you tap into your competitive side. And when you nurture competition instead of running from it, you’re more likely to make improvements even if you “lose.”
So have fun with the path you’re on. And you can do that by being grateful for the strengths that you have — the mental and physical aspects that keep goals within your reach.
20. Envision the Reality You Want
One of the best examples of visualization leading to success is the bold step that Jim Carrey made before his In Living Color days. At that time, he was a broke comic and wannabe actor with no real prospects. He wrote himself a check for $10 million and kept it in his wallet as a constant reminder of the path he was on. He would later command eight figures for a single movie. Needless to say, he was eventually able to cash that check with little trouble.
You can learn from this by taking bold steps. Even if they’re just symbolic in nature — in fact, most will be — they give you something tangible to work towards. You may not want to go as bold as Jim Carrey did. But there’s nothing wrong with setting a more manageable target and borrowing his idea, is there?
Hold Yourself Accountable and the Rest Takes Care of Itself
We hope this article will help you see the value in real accountability. As you move into the New Year, refer to these tips for how to hold yourself accountable often. And best of luck on your journey!
Now it’s your turn. What are you going to be focusing on fixing or accomplishing in 2020? Share your thoughts in our comments section below!
[Featured Image by Pixabay]